As we discovered this year, good old-fashioned linear TV doesn't have one foot in the grave just yet.

According to NZ On Air's biennial Where Are The Audiences? report released in August, streaming video might be rapidly closing the gap on traditional broadcast media, but the act of actually sitting down to watch the telly of an evening is still a steady tradition in Kiwi households.

And if you were one of those people flicking on the TV this year, chances are you were watching one of the following five shows: 1 News at Six, Country Calendar, Fair Go, Seven Sharp and, er, Border Patrol.

These shows – as well as Border Patrol's Australian counterpart, Border Security – consistently made up the top five most-watched in 2018. And while that might largely boil down to a certain age bracket dominating traditional linear TV viewing, there are a few other reasons for their continued popularity.


1 News at Six

Wendy Petrie and Simon Dallow host 1 News at Six.
Wendy Petrie and Simon Dallow host 1 News at Six.

Sure, we might be consuming news across multiple mediums right around the clock these days, but it looks like sitting down to watch the news at 6pm, specifically on TVNZ 1 with Simon Dallow, Wendy Petrie and their whiz-bang 17-metre-long video wall, is still an institution for many Kiwis – more than 600,000 of us, as it transpires.

Old habits die hard, I guess?

Seven Sharp

Given it immediately follows the rating's monster that is 1 News at Six, it makes sense that Seven Sharp sits on this list, even if it is usually found loitering around the fifth spot each week.

While I'm a big fan of Hilary Barry and whatever weird energy Jeremy Wells decides to bring to each broadcast, if I'm watching TV at 7pm, it's also because I've collapsed on the couch in an exhausted heap and cannot lift a finger to switch the channel. I suspect a large section of the population feels the same way.

Country Calendar

Still sprightly after more than 50 years, Country Calendar manages to pull in more than half a million viewers per episode, frequently leaving it second only to the 6pm news.


Once upon a time, nothing made me run faster from a TV set than the famous Country Calendar theme tune, but it's slowly won me over in recent years, to the point where it's almost dangerous viewing.

One more beautifully shot story about folks living off the land in a spectacular part of New Zealand and I'll likely pack up everything and move to the country.

Fair Go

After 40 years, Fair Go remains one of the most popular shows on New Zealand television.
After 40 years, Fair Go remains one of the most popular shows on New Zealand television.

Another iconic Kiwi show, Fair Go still has considerable pull with viewers keen to see con artists of all shapes and sizes get their comeuppance – even after 40 years. It also doesn't hurt that the show's currently fronted by the very likeable duo of Pippa Wetzell and Hadyn Jones.

Border Patrol

It always bemuses me as to why Border Patrol and Border Security are frequently found in our top five rating shows.

Of all the amazing things that go to air each week, why does a series about the inner workings of Customs and Immigration always shoot close to the top?

Well, last week's episode of Border Security might be the answer. It had a student arriving at Sydney Airport with a suitcase of narcotic-stuffed mooncakes. It starred a backpacker discovering the famous Irish charm doesn't wash with immigration officials who've just busted somebody working on a tourist visa.

And it also featured a highlight of the genre – the mind-boggling items some people will try packing for an international flight.

When one woman's luggage started leaking a strange fluid, an x-ray revealed it contained a large crock-pot. Filled with cooked vegetables. And several cartons of undeclared cigarettes. Because if you're going to sneak tobacco into a country, it makes perfect sense to encase it in a leaking slow cooker.

I immediately imagined all the viewers around New Zealand shouting, "Carol! Check out what some joker is trying to get into the country now," and chortling into their cup of tea.

But what is clear from looking at all five of the above shows is that viewers are choosing to stick with what they know.

Whether it's listening to the dulcet tones of Dallow and Petrie, keeping the telly on for Seven Sharp, settling down for a bit of iconic Kiwi storytelling or watching tourists get stung for not throwing their apples away at the airport, there's clearly still comfort to be found in the familiar in 2018.